What is a policy and how do you study it? My DPhil research focuses on the development of the policy response to the problem of human trafficking in the UK. I set out to illustrate how changing definitions of the problem have informed the evolution of that policy response.

This presentation will give an overview of the fieldwork that I recently completed and interrogate the methodological choices I made in attempting to study what I have termed a 'policy apparatus'. That fieldwork comprised a mixture of semi-structured interviews, documentary analysis, and ad hoc encounters such as attendance at conferences, presentations and workshops. My goal was to attempt to encompass every level of the 'policy apparatus' on human trafficking – from legislation and national policy statements to institutional structures and everyday practices.

I will consider the decisions I faced in directing my fieldwork, relating them to the overall aims of my project and examining them in the light of related literature on the anthropology of policy. I will ask whether this style of ethnography (if that is indeed the right word for it) has a claim to represent a distinct methodological approach.